His strange impeachment urged. Reply
Came none; they let it go; for why
Argue with man of bitter blood?
But Rolfe he could but grieve within
For countryman in such a mood--
Knowing the cause, the origin.
Pointed athwart the dale divine:
"What's yonder object--fountain? shrine?
Companions, let us thither go
And make inspection."
It proved an ancient monument--
Rude stone; but tablets lent a charm:
Three tablets on three sides. In one
The Tender Shepherd mild looked down
Upon the rescued weanling lost,
Snugged now in arms. In emblem crossed
By pastoral crook, Christ's monogram
(Wrought with a medieval grace)
Showed on the square opposed in face.
But chiefly did they feel the claim
Of the main tablet; there a lamb
On passive haunches upright sate
In patience which reproached not fate;
The two fine furry fore-legs drooping
Like tassels; while the shearer, stooping,
Embraced it with one arm; and all
The fleece rolled off in seamless shawl
Flecked here and there with hinted blood.
It did not shrink; no cry did come:
In still life of that stone subdued
Shearer and shorn alike were dumb.
As with a seventy-four, when lull
Lapses upon the storm, the hull
Rights for the instant, while a moan
Of winds succeeds the howl; so here
In poise of heart and altered tone
With Ungar. Respite brief though dear
It proved; for he: "This type's assigned
To One who sharing not man's mind
Wrecked him upon this reef of earth
Inclement and inhuman. Yet,
Through all the trials that beset,
He leaned on an upholding arm--
Foreknowing, too, reserves of balm.
But how of them whose souls may claim
Some link with Christ beyond the name,
Which share the fate, but never share
Aid or assurance, and nowhere
Look for requital? Such there be;
In by-lanes o'er the world ye see
The Calvary-faces." All averse
Turned Derwent, murmuring, "Forbear.
Such breakers do the heaven asperse!"
But timely he alert espied,
Upon the mountain humbly kneeling,
Those shepherds twain, while morning-tide
Rolled o'er the hills with golden healing.
It was a rock they kneeled upon,
Convenient for their rite avowed--
Kneeled, and their turbaned foreheads bowed--
Bowed over, till they kissed the stone:
Each shaggy sur-coat heedful spread
For rug, such as in mosque is laid.
About the ledge's favored hem
Mild fed their sheep, enringing them;
While, facing as by second-sight,
Toward Mecca they direct the rite.
"Look; and their backs on Bethlehem turned,"
Cried Rolfe. The priest then, who discerned
The drift, replied, "Yes, for they pray
To Allah. Well, and what of that?
Christ listens, standing in heaven's gate--
Benignant listens, nor doth stay
Upon a syllable in creed:
Vowels and consonants indeed!"
And Rolfe: "But here were Margoth now,
Seeing yon shepherds praying so,
His gibe would run from man to man:
'Which is the humble publican?
Or do they but prostrate them there
To flout you Franks with Islam's prayer?' "
"Doubtless: some shallow thing he'd say,
Poor fellow," Derwent then; "but, nay,
Earnest they are; nor yet they'd part
(If pealed the hour) in street or mart,
From like observance."
The refugee, "let all avow
As openly faith's loyal heart.
By Christians too was God confessed
How frankly! in those days that come
No more to misnamed Christendom!
Religion then was the good guest,
First served, and last, in every gate:
What mottoes upon wall and plate!
She every human venture shared:
The ship in manifest declared
That not disclaiming heaven she thrust
Her bowsprit into fog and storm:
Some current silver bore the palm
Of Christ, token of saint, or bust;
In line devout the pikemen kneeled--
To battle by the rite were sealed.
Beyond the mean intelligence
That knows to read, and but to read--
Not think. 'Twas harder to mislead
The people then, whose smattering now
Does but the more their ignorance show--
Nay, them to peril more expose--
Is as the ring in the bull's nose
Whereby a pert boy turns and winds
This monster of a million minds.
Men owned true masters; kings owned God--
Their master; Louis plied the rod
Upon himself. In high estate,
Not puffed up like a democrat
In office, how with Charlemagne?
Look up he did, look up in reign--
Humbly look up, who might look down:
His meekest thing was still his crown:
How meek on him; since, graven there,
Among the Apostles twelvc behold,
Stern Scriptural precepts were enrolled,
High admonitions, meet for kings.
The coronation was a prayer,
Which yet in ceremonial clings.
The church was like a bonfire warm:
All ranks were gathered round the charm."
Derwent, who vainly had essayed
To impede the speaker, or blockade,
Snatched at the bridle here: "Ho, wait;
A word, impetuous laureate!
This bric-a-brac-ish style (outgrown
Almost, where first it gave the tone)
Of lauding the quaint ages old--
But nay, that's satire; I withhold.
Grant your side of the shield part true:
What then? why, turn the other: view
The buckler in reverse. Don't sages
Denominate those times Dark Ages?
Dark Middle Ages, time's midnight!"
"If night, it was no starless one;
Art still admires what then was done:
A strength they showed which is of light.
Not more the Phidian marbles prove
The graces of the Grecian prime
And indicate what men they were,
Than the grand minsters in remove
Do intimate, if not declare
A magnanimity which our time
Would envy, were it great enough
To comprehend. Your counterbuff,
However, holds. Yes, frankly, yes,
Another side there is, admit.
Nor less the very worst of it
Reveals not such a shamelessness
Of evildoer and hypocrite,
And sordid mercenary sin
As these days vaunt and revel in."
"No use, no use," the priest aside;
"Patience! it is the maddest tide;"
And seated him.
And Ungar then:
"What's overtaken ye pale men?
Shrewd are ye, the main chance ye heed:
Has God quite lost his throne indeed
That lukewarm now ye grow? Wilt own,
Council ye take with fossil-stone?
Your sects do nowadays create
Churches as worldly as the state.
And, for your more established forms--
Ah, once in York I viewed through storms
The Minster's majesty of mien--
Towers, peaks, and pinnacles sublime--
Faith's iceberg, stranded on a scene
How alien, and an alien time;
But now"--he checked himself, and stood.
Whence this strange bias of his mood
(Thought they) leaning to things corroded,
But, truly, knowing not the man,
At fault they in conjecture ran.
But Ungar (as in fitter place
Set down) being sprung from Romish race,
Albeit himself had spared to feed
On any one elected creed
Or rite, though much he might recall
In annals bearing upon all;
And, in this land named of Behest,
A wandering Ishmael from the West;
Inherited the Latin mind,
Which latc blown by the adverse wind
Of harder fortunes that molest--
Kindled from ember into coal.
Anew turns toward the kneeling twain:
"Your error's slight, or, if a stain,
'Twill fade. Our Lord enjoins good deeds
Nor catechiseth in the creeds."
A something in the voice or man,
Or in assumption of the turn
Which prior theme did so adjourn,
Pricked Ungar, and a look he ran
Toward Derwent--an electric light
Chastising in its fierce revolt;
Then settled into that still night
Of cloud which has discharged the bolt.
The priest--if Clarel not mistook--
The good priest wore the troubled air
Of honest heart striving to brook
Injury, which from words abstained,
And, hence, not readily arraigned;
Which to requite in its own sort
Is not allowed in heaven's high court,
Or self-respect's. Such would forget,
But for the teasing doubt or fret
Lest unto worldly witness mere
The injury none the less appear
To challenge notice at the least.
Ungar withdrew, leaving the priest
Less ill at ease; who now a thought
Threw out, as 'twere in sad concern
For one whose nature, sour or stern,
Still dealt in all unhandsome flings
At happy times and happy things:
" 'The bramble sayeth it is naught:'
Poor man!" But that; and quite forbore
To vent his grievance. Nor less sore
He felt it--Clarel so inferred,
Recalling here too Mortmain's word
Of cutting censorship. How then?
While most who met him frank averred
That Derwent ranked with best of men,
The Swede and refugee unite
In one repugnance, yea, and slight.
How take, construe their ill-content?
A thing of vein and temperament?
Rolfe liked him; and if Vine said naught,
Yet even Vine seemed not uncheered
By fair address. Then stole the thought
Of how the priest had late appeared
In that one confidential hour,
Ambiguous on Saba's tower.
There he dismissed it, let it fall:
To probe overmuch seems finical.
Nor less (for still the point did tease,
Nor would away and leave at ease),
Nor less, I wonder, if ere long
He'll turn this off, not worth a song,
As lightly as of late he turned
12. OF POPE AND TURK
Rolfe, that a friend might fret discard,
Turned his attention to debate
Between two strangers at the board.
In furtherance of his point or plea
"Late it was told to me,
And by the man himself concerned,
That in a fire which traveled post,
His books and records being burned,
His Christian debtors held their peace;
The Islam ones disclaimed release,
And came with purses and accounts."
"And duly rendered their amounts?
'Twas very kind. But oh, the greed,
Rapacity, and crime at need
In satraps which oppress the throng."
"True. But with these 'tis, after all,
Wrong-doing purely personal--
Not legislated--not a wrong
Law-sanctioned. No: the Turk, admit,
In scheme of state, the scheme of it,
Upon the civil arm confers
A sway above the scimeter's--
The civil power itself subjects
Unto that Koran which respects
Nor place nor person. Nay, adjourn
The jeer; for now aside we'll turn.
Dismembered Poland and her throe
In Ninety-Five, all unredressed:
Did France, did England then protest?"
"England? I'm sure I do not know.
Come, I distrust your shifting so.
Pray, to what end now is this pressed?"
"Why, here armed Christendom looking on,
In protest the Sultan stood alone."
"Indeed? But all this, seems to me,
Savors of Urquhart's vanity."
"The commentator on the East?"
"The same: that very inexact
"And that's your view?
He stands for God."
"I stand by fact."
"Well then, another fact or two;
When Poland's place in Thirty-One
Was blotted out, the Turk again
Protested, with one other man,
The Pope; these, and but these alone;
And in the protest both avowed
'Twas made for justice's sake and God.--
"Oh no: but very clear
The protest prompted was by fear
In Turk and Pope, that time might come
When spoliation should drive home
Upon themselves. Besides, you know
The Polish church was Catholic:
The Czar would wrest it to the Greek:
'Twas that touched Rome. But let it go.--
In pith, what is it you would show?
Are Turks our betters? Very strange
Heaven's favor does not choicely range
Upon these Islam people good:
Bed-rid they are, behindhand all,
While Europe flowers in plenitude
Of wealth and commerce."
Nothing in Testament which saith
That worldliness shall not succeed
In that wherein it laboreth.
Fine lesson from ye has he won
Of late; apt pupil he indeed:
Ormus, that riches did confer,
Ormus is made a borrower:
Selim, who grandly turbaned sat,
Verges on bankruptcy and--hat.
But this don't touch the rank and file;
At least, as yet. But preach and work:
You'll civilize the barbarous Turk--
Nay, all the East may reconcile:
That done, let Mammon take the wings of even,
And mount and civilize the saints in heaven."
"I laugh--I like a brave caprice!
And, sir "
But here did Rolfe release
His ear, and Derwent too. A stir
In court was heard of man and steed--
Neighings and mountings, din indeed
And Rolfe: "Come, come; our traveler."
13. THE CHURCH OF THE STAR
In farewell Agath they detain,
Transferred here to a timelier train
Than theirs. A work-day, passive face
He turns to Derwent's Luck to thee!
No slight he means--'tis far from that
But, schooled by the inhuman sea,
He feels 'tis vain to wave the hat
In God-speed on this mortal strand;
Recalling all the sailing crews
Destined to sleep in ocean sand,
Cheered from the wharf with blithe adieus.
Nor less the heart's farewell they say,
And bless the old man on his way.
With curls that ringed the shaven crown,
Courts now and shrines they trace. That thong
Ascetic which can life chastise
Down to her bleak necessities,
They mark in coarse serge of his gown,
And girdling rope, with cross of wood
For tag at end; and hut-like hood
Superfluous now behind him thrown;
And sandals which expose the skin
Transparent, and the blue vein thin
Meandering there: the feet, the face
Alike in lucid marble grace.
His simple manners self-possessed
Both saint and noble-born suggest;
Yet under quietude they mark
The slumbering of a vivid spark--
Excitable, if brought to test.
A Tuscan, he exchanged the charm
Val d'Arno yields, for this dull calm
Of desert. Was his youth self-given
In frank oblation unto heaven?
Or what inducement might disarm
This Isaac when too young to know?
Hereon they, pacing, musc till, lo,
The temple opens in dusk glades
Of long-drawn double colonnades:
Monoliths two-score and eight.
Rolfe looked about him, pleased in state:
"But this is goodly! Here we rove
As down the deep Dodona grove:
Years, years and years these boles have stood!--
Late by the spring in idle mood
My will I made (if ye recall),
Providing for the Inn of Trees:
But ah, to set out trunks like these
In harbor open unto all
For generations!" So in vein
They passed. But noting now the guide
In acquiescence by their side,
He checked himself: "Why prate I here?
This brother--I usurp his sphere."
They came unto a silver star
In pavement set which none do mar
By treading. Here at pause remained
The monk; till, seeing Rolfe refrained,
And all, from words, he said: "The place,
Signori, where that shining grace
Which led the Magi, stood; below,
The Manger is." They comment none
Not voicing everything they know,
In cirque about that silver star
They quietly gaze thereupon.
But, turning now, one glanced afar
Along the columned aisles, and thought
Of Baldwin whom the mailed knights brought
While Godfrey's requiem did ring,
Hither to Bethlehem, and crowned
His temples helmet-worn, with round
Of gold and velvet--crowned him king--
King of Jerusalem, on floor
Of this same nave august, above
The Manger in its low remove
Where lay, a thousand years before,
The Child of awful worshiping,
Destined to prove all slights and scorns
And a God's coronation--thorns.
Not Derwent's was that revery;
Another thing his heart possessed,
The clashing of the East and West,
Odd sense of incongruity;
He felt a secret impulse move
To start a humorous comment slant
Upon the monk, and sly reprove.
But no: I'll curb the Protestant
And modern in me--at least here
For time I'll curb it. Perish truth
If it but act the boor, in sooth,
Requiting courtesy with jeer;
For courteous is our guide, with grace
Of a pure heart.
Some little trace,
May be, of Derwent's passing thought
The Tuscan from his aspect caught;
And turned him: "Pardon! but the crypt:
This way, signori--follow me."
Down by a rock-hewn stair they slipped,
Turning by steps which winding be,
Winning a sparry chamber brave
Unsearched by that prose critic keen,
The daylight. Archimago's cave
Was here? or that more sorcerous scene
The Persian Sibyl kept within
For turbaned musings? Bowing o'er,
Crossing himself, and on the knee,
Straight did the guide that grot adore;
Then, rising, and as one set free:
"The place of the Nativity."
Dim pendent lamps, in cluster small
Were Pleiads of the mystic hall;
Fair lamps of silver, lamps of gold--
Rich gifts devout of monarchs old,
Kings catholic. Rare objects beamed
All round, recalling things but dreamed:
Solomon's talismans garnered up,
His sword, his signet-ring and cup.
In further caverns, part revealed,
What silent shapes like statues kneeled;
What brown monks moved by twinkling shrines
Like Aztecs down in silver mines.
Noting their looks, to ward surprise,
The Italian: "'Tis incrusted o'er
With marbles, so that now one's eyes
Meet not the natural wall. This floor "
"But how? within a cave we stand!"
"Yes, caves of old to use were put
For cattle, and with gates were shut.
One meets them still--with arms at hand,
The keepers nigh. Sure it need be
That if in Gihon ye have been,
Or hereabouts, yourselves have seen
The grots in question."
And silent in their hearts confess
The strangeness, but the truth no less.
Anew the guide: "Ere now we get
Further herein, indulge me yet;"
But paused awhile: "Though o'er this cave,
Where Christ" (and crossed himself) "had birth,
Constantine's mother reared the Nave
Whose Greek mosaics fade in bloom,
No older church in Christendom;
And generations, with the girth
Of domes and walls, have still enlarged
And built about; yet convents, shrines,
Cloisters and towers, take not for signs,
Entreat ye, of meek faith submerged
Under proud masses. Be it urged
As all began from these small bounds,
So, by all avenues and gates,
All here returns, hereto redounds:
In this one Cave all terminates:
In honor of the Manger sole
Saints, kings, knights, prelates reared the whole."
He warmed. Ah, fervor bought too dear:
The fingers clutching rope and cross;
Life too intense; the cheek austere
Deepening in hollow, waste and loss.
They marked him; and at heart some knew
Inklings they loved not to pursue.
But Rolfe recalled in fleeting gleam
The first Franciscan, richly born--
The youthful one who, night and morn,
In Umbria ranged the hills in dream,
And first devised the girdling cord
In type that rebel senses so
Should led be led like beast abroad
By halter. Tuscan! in the glow
And white light of thy faith's illumings,
In vigils, fervent prayers and trances,
Agonies and self-consumings--
Renewest thou the young Saint Francis?
So inly Rolfe; when, in low tone
Considerate Derwent whispered near:
"'Tis doubtless the poor boy's first year
In Bethlehem; time will abate
This novice-ardor; yes, sedate
He'll grow, adapt him to the sphere."
A semicircular recess;
And there, in marble floor, they view
A silver sun which (friars profess)
Is set in plummet-line exact
Beneath the star in pavement-tract
Above; and raying from this sun
Shoot jasper-spikes, which so point out
Argent inseription roundabout
In Latin text; which thus may run:
THE VIRGIN HERE BROUGHT FORTH THE SON.
The Tuscan bowed him; then with air
Friendly he turned; but something there
In Derwent's look--no matter what--
An open levity 'twas not--
Disturbed him; and in accents clear,
As challenged in his faith sincere:
"I trust tradition! Here He lay
Who shed on Mary's breasts the ray:
He noted, and he bade them see
Where, with a timid piety
A band of rustics bent them low
In worship mute: "Shepherds these are,
And come from pastoral hills not far
Whereon they keep the night-watch wild:
These, like their sires, adore the CHILD,
And in same spot. But, mixed with these,
Mark ye yon poor swart images
In other garb? But late they fled
From overJordan hither; yes,
Escaping so the heinousness
Of one with price upon his head.
But look, and yet seem not to peer,
Lest pain ye give: an eye, an ear,
A hand, is mutilate or gone:
The mangler marked them for his own
But Christ redeems them." Derwent here
His eyes withdrew, but Ungar not
While visibly the red blood shot
Into his thin-skinned scar, and sent
As seemed, a pulse of argument
Confirming so some angry sense
Of evil, and malevolence
In man toward man.